Quora answer: Is there anything good about women?

Apr 08 2013

In Heidegger we hear of the “Fourfold of the World” which is comprised on Heaven Earth Mortals and Immortals.


And we wonder how Heidegger came up with that until we learn that in an obscure passage in Plato his Socrates defined the world as being composed of these four characteristics. But later we see that Plato in the Symposium gives Aristophanes a speech prior to that of Socrates which is that men and women were once whole and that they were cut apart, and that we continually search for the other half, whether it be man for man, women for woman or man for woman. These other possibilities for combinations of sexes were very much on everyone’s mind in Greece in the form of the Homosexual relations with young boys that was prevalent and also the homosexual relations between women as we see in Sappho of Lesbos poetry. The sexes were driven apart in Greece by the fact that there were so few women who were citizens that they become an extremely precious commodity. And the few Greek women who were not killed in at birth by their fathers if they survived spent their lives virtual prisoners in their husband’s home and symbolically married not to the husbands but to Hades and the to the family hearth which was also the place of the burial of the ancestors. There are many fine women scholars of the Greek texts that are the foundations of our society who have unearthed this dark sexual side of the plight of Greek women who were considered just somewhat better than the slaves of the household being prisoners in their own homes.

Now it is interesting that Plato includes Aristophanes and gives him the highest speech within the Symposium (but the way symposia were parties for men in the home where prostitutes were brought into the home to entertain the men at their drinking party http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Symposium). This is because Aristophanes play the Clouds which mis-represented Socrates as a natural philosopher was probably had a good deal to do with the reason that Socrates was eventually killed for corrupting youth. Plato’s dialogues were there to prove that Socrates was not corrupting the youth and that he in fact had Platonic relations with his the young men who were his followers. We hear of Socrates own wife only in his last words. So this inclusion of Aristophanes as having the second best theory of Love before that of Socrates which is the last and highest theory which talks about the love as a Diamon, might make us wonder about the contribution of Aristophanes. It turns out that his plays were spared because they were used as a way of teaching Greek grammar and we have his comedies, and if we read them we see that the idea of Aristophanes and those of Plato in for instance the Republic are very similar. In one play the women revolt and deny sex to their husbands in order to stop a war. And there are other extreme views that are fantasies of the Other in his comedies which for instance represent communism, and even the idea of free sex where women could choose their own partners freely. All this was clearly thought to be absurd in the context of the comedies but Plato took these ideas and incorporated them into the thought experiments of his cities. But as we read on we find that there are times in the comedies when the playwright speaks directly to his audience. In these interludes called the parabasis Aristophanes contends to be giving his audience not low humor but wisdom. If we reread his plays looking for that wisdom we find that in the Birds, which is about how the Birds are higher than the Greek Gods, that he tells a different Theogony from that of Heisod. In his theogony there was first the four primordial powers (night, covering, abyss, and chaos) and then the arising of Eros, and then the birds and after that the Gods and then everything else including humans. This other theogony sees four primordial goddesses (not one) and out of them comes Eros, which is the subject of Plato’s symposium. It turns out that the speeches in the symposium give an image of the Special Systems, but we will not follow that thread.) Rather we will see that we have finally met up with the dual of the Positive Fourfold mentioned by Socrates and celebrated by Heidegger. That dual is the negative fourfold attributed to women as the positive fourfold is attributed to men.

So the wisdom of the Aristophanes, at least one part of it, is the true theogony based on Egyptian sources, and that theogony sees the four goddesses as equi-primordial and together they give rise to Eros. Now this is where it becomes interesting. When we look at the negative fourfold we see it has always been there from the beginning hidden in our tradition. And if we reverse the attributes of that fourfold then we get Order (chaos), Grounding (abyss), Light (night), Uncovering which is aletheia, or Truth (covering). And so we find here the basic features of the worldview, which is the inner core of the worldview seen from the point of view of Heaven/Earth//Mortal/Immortal. Now interestingly enough Order is the first nondual between Physus and Logos within the worldview. And beneath that there are other nonduals such as Right, Good, Fate, Sources, Root.

All of philosophy has been a searching for the Grounds of belief and reason. Sophia or wisdom is seen as feminine in the Greek tradition. Philosophy is seen as the love of Wisdom, and love has several forms of which Agape and Eros are two. Agape is the higher love of reason, Platonic love, and Eros is the love that is ensnarled in opinion and appearance and which is difficult to ground, i.e. to find true love, love that when it is uncovered is still good. Eros always takes us away from what is prescriptively Right toward carnal or lowly sorts of pleasures. It was hard to believe that the relation between relation between Socrates and Alcibiades was a form of agape when for everyone else the relation of men and boys was one of eros, one in which baser needs and instincts ruled. Plato tells us they laid at night under the same blanket and nothing happened. Hard for the Athenian court to believe given the common practices of pederasty in Greece at that time.

There are also two other words for love in Greece Storge and Philia. Philosophy is Philia Sophia, love of wisdom. Storge means affection, as in family affection. Philia means friendship. In this series it is Eros that is problematic. When familial affection, or Friendship or Self-less love is mixed with Eros then there is trouble. But also Eros is the kind of love that quickens and gives life and assures the continuance of the species, or at least the Greek citizens, who must be born from a Greek man and woman citizen to be a citizen themselves. And since there are ten Greek citizen men for every Greek citizen woman, that is a problem, and that means that Greek women are incredibly precious, but too precious to allow out of the house in case they are kidnapped which was a regular form of the marriage rite, as we see in the myth of Hades and Kore (Persephone). So sexual relations in Greece was bound to be perverse, as women were locked up together and did not play a role in society, and men instead of their wives offered their visitors prostitutes, and where getting along in the world meant having a male mentor with which you had homosexual relations. Greek women were relegated to being merely a means for ones legitimate children to claim Greek citizenship. And many other kinds of social bonds were recognized beyond marriage.

However, this made Athenian Greek society one in which the nature of Eros and the good and bad sides of it, a matter of great interest beyond our natural carnal interests. It made it of philosophical interest, and it made it the first thing to be created out of the primordial negative fourfold.

Now if we look at the nonduals at the core of the Western worldview and the negative fourfold we find the following:

  • chaos –>     Order           — Order   — Identity.
  • night –>       Day              — Right   — Presence
  • covering –> Uncovering  — Good  — Truth
  • abyss –>     Grounding     — Fate   — Reality

If we look at Plato’s Divided line we see:

Supra-rational Limit {Nous} [Arche: Sources/Root]

———————————-> Meta-system – Dionysus / Artimis (Wilds Beyond the City)

Ratio – Non-Representable Intelligibles [Fate/Good] {Sophos} Agape – Alcibiades vouches for S.

·       emptiness (reflexive social special system) — Socrates – Diotima of Mantinea > Diamon

Ratio – Representable Intelligibles [Right/Order] {Episteme} Philos – Agathon Virtues

·       manifestation (autopoietic symbiotic special system) – Aristophanes Wholeness/Pairing

Doxa – Grounded Opinion/Appearance [Truth/Reality] {Techne} Storge – Eryximachus medicine

·       void (dissipative ordering special system) – Pausanias Lawyer/Universal

Doxa – Ungrounded Opinion/Appearance [Identity/Presence] {Phronesis} Eros – Phaedrus

———————————-> System – Apollo / Athena (Founders of the Law Courts in the city)

Paradoxicality Limit {Metis}  è [Ideas: Love as mixture of Pleasure/Pain as in Sappho] Negative Fourfold (chaos, abyss, night, covering)

The nondual sources are related to the two kinds of Ratio, and the Aspects of Being are related to the two kinds of Doxa.

The kinds of knowledge identified by Aristotle map to the parts of the Divided Line of Plato.

The speeches of the Symposium also map onto the Divided Line elements.

The key here in the Symposium is that Socrates give an opinion of a Woman Diotima of Mantinea not his own about the nature of Love. The gist of that view of Eros is that it is a messenger between the God and Men, a Diamon.

When Alcibiades bursts in then we have the advent of the God Dionysus within the symposium, who is the God who takes the women of the city out into the Wilderness, out of their houses into the wild mountains to become Maenads and who consorted three with Satyrs.

So the upshot of all this is that there is a single view of the nature of the worldview between Plato and Aristotle which is reinforced by the ideas of Aristophanes. In the divided line which is the arena of experience within our tradition, Eros appears and then is transformed as each point in the divided line is reached. And that transformation allows us to see how the Special Systems are the differences between the various places in the divided line. The divided line represents the relation of the aspects of Being which are the same as the aspects of existence, and how that relates to the nonduals approached by reason. Woman which the Greeks so distrusted, thinking of her as a traitor in their midst (cf. Ariadne, Medea, Helen, etc.) is ultimately the one who speaks authoritatively though Socrates about Love.

And this is for a very specific reason. Women are at the same time the embodiment of the negative fourfold, everything paradoxical and absurd in the worldview, and also the embodiment of the aspects and nonduals of which the worldview is constructed. Nietzsche famously said Truth is a woman. But we can expand that to all the other aspects of Being and Existence. Reality is a Woman. Identity is a Woman. Presence is a Woman. But more women are the holders of order within the aeconomy (household). Women are those who are the source of beauty, i.e. right proportion, the Golden Mean. Women are the basis of all Good, because they are the source of variety that comes from their wombs, which is human variety, and by our differences we know each other. Women are the sources of Fate because we are born from one particular womb and no other and that determines who we are more than anything else because it is our mothers that tend us when we are small and helpless. Women are literally our source and origin. The root of our existence.


In Egypt Nut was a goddess that spanned the sky and was over everything [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nut_(goddess)]. From the Greek point of view, the world was made of woman. Woman is the Arche, as negative fourfold out of which Eros arises, and then Eros transforms as it crosses the sky of the world, giving rise to each kind of feeling of love, and woman relates us to the Aspects of Being, and she relates us to the nonduals at the core of the worldview. When the song says – you are my everything – that is literally true of Woman in the western worldview – she is the matter out of which everything is made that is formed by man. She is the darkness that contrasts with the light of man, she is the covered that contrasts with the uncovering of man for instance the uncovering of truth by Oedipus. She is the one who rules the night, but is hidden in her house during the day, when men go out to meet the other men of the world, and to meet the enemy at the gate of the city. She is the chaos prior to all order established by men though laws. She is the abyss of incomprehensibility that we attempt to find foundations and grounds to pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps to make ourselves civilized. She so easily is seduced by Dionysus and returns to the wild.

As Nietzsche might say elaborating on his statement that Truth is a Woman, and other less savory statements about women, that Woman is Beyond Good and Evil. In other words Women are not just Good or Evil, but are the source of the Good as nondual itself. And the other nonduals that are shunned in our dualistic culture. That is why men are so fascinated by her. She is in fact the source of our world giving birth to everyone in it as an archetype, but she is also the source each of us in particular and the aspects of existence, and the nonduals that govern our lives. So we turn the question about, and we say is there anything that exists of any meaning or significance in our worldview that is not directly the product of women at an archetypal level? And the answer is No. They are the material out of which our worlds are forged. And that material is essentially their reproductive function without which there would be no world because there would be no people in it. And when the reproductive function becomes scarce as it was in Ancient Greece which is the foundation of our worldview, then the importance of women becomes even more significant. They remain a commoditized resource to be traded in patriarchal kinship systems until they become too scarce then we revert to matriarchal systems where the father never lets the daughter out of the house and the brother raises the children instead of the husband (if there is a husband and not just incest).

The paradox of Woman that we see in the relation between Hera and Nephele is that she is at once a dominated commodity in most cultures, and at the same time the source of everything within those cultures. She is owned and at the same time the source of everything worth having including those who own her. And this is why it is the Mirror which is the accoutrement most important to women. When Hera saw Nephele she was looking at an image of herself made flesh which is the equivalent of women looking into mirrors, in order to see how they are seen by men and other women first. And our question is whether the source is Nephele or Hera and which is the commodity. It is really impossible to tell. And that is the situation we all find ourselves in, lost because this primordial Ordering, Rightness, Good, Fate as articulated in terms of Reality, Truth, Identity and Presence has a Mimetic quality that we cannot escape. Art imitates Nature, yet also Nature imitates Art. And both Men and Women are lost in this quandary, and having lost themselves have lost each other. And that is why the theme in the Odyssey is recognition. And the first to recognize Odysseus is Nausicaa, and then he travels with the help of Athena to appear in the Hearth of the King of Scheria but he presents himself to the Queen and not the King. And then upon return to Ithaca via the magical ships of the Scherians, he meets Athena who he tries to fool but cannot. And then he is recognized by his old nurse, and finally begrudgingly by his wife Penelope who has kept the home fires burning. It is Women who recognize Odysseus for how he really is. Nausicaa recognizes him as a Man. The King and Queen recognize him as a Hero unlike other men. Athena recognizes him as the man who embodies Metis. The old nurse recognizes him as the one who was initiated by his grandfather. And his wife finally are recognizes him as her husband and lord long missing in action. Women are the source of recognition of the Man within our tradition, and that is because they are our world and everything in it is mediated to us by them. And so they are more than merely good for something, they are good itself, and they are more than merely good they are beyond good and evil because they are the source of everything both good and evil. They give birth to the good and the evil alike. They are like Nut and they stretch from horizon to horizon to articulate our world for us as men operating in that world. Men decide which of them will be relegated to the status of prostitutes and whores entertaining at the symposia, and which will be relegated to the prison of marriage locked in the back of the house, and which will be slaves to be exploited mercilessly. But women themselves due to their precarious position, ascent to those distinctions imposed upon them and which they also impose upon themselves. There is no doubt that women are shaped biologically by the dominance of men, just as men are shaped by their biological dependence on their mothers and wives and myriad lovers with whom they have children out of wedlock. We all accent to these distinctions among women, by which we produce the distinctions that we create among men. The men with power and money can have as many young women as prostitutes as they like while other men have fewer, and so it goes as we constitute the economy of sexual relations and produce human suffering on an immense scale, and death. Let us not forget that pornography is death.

Is there anything good about women? This is an essentially Greek question to which the answer is No. But at the same time the Greeks knew that everything in their world, including citizenship came from the women who were the female children of citizens who were allowed to live. The negation of the female went so far as to Apollo denying that the woman has any role in the fundamental formation of the child, but said in stead she was a mere receptacle (Chora) as in Plato’s Timeous for the creation of the world by the Demiurge. This is woman as Nephele, the mimesis of man though difference. But there is also Hera, wife and sister of Zeus, and thus establishing Zeus on the model of the Egyptian royalty who always married their sisters because descent of the Pharaoh went though the female line. Zeus is the Alpha male and his rule is incestuous. Matriarchy preserves precious reproductive resources when they are scarce. And that is why all human beings trace their genetic heritage back to one female, because that scarcity has been a reality at various times in human evolution. And that scarcity such as we see in the Handmaiden’s Tale is the core of what it is to be woman as the source of Good. Reproductive variety is the source of all variety in the human world. And the woman to which we are born and her kinship relations determine our fate to a great degree within the course of the unfolding of the Indo-European patriarchal culture.

Women are not only good for something, they are the source of good of everything within our world, as well as fate, right (as proportioned beauty), order, truth, reality, presence, identity, etc. And to the extent that women are like Nephele rather than Hera, i.e. are merely images of what men want to see, (hear, smell, taste, and touch), and they fall into the degradation and destruction that awaits them in the clutches of the Animus, then their degradation and destruction is our own degradation and destruction. Women are closer to us than we are to ourselves. And the God, who unites the aspects and underlies the hierarchy of nonduals who judges us justly regarding our treatment of them, and our courage protecting them, and is the source of all wisdom concerning how we differentiate them from each other, from ourselves, and thus differentiate ourselves, is even closer to us still.


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